Making Sense of Primary School Homework: A feminist study of mothers' constructions of homework support

Lehner-Mear, Rachel (2023) Making Sense of Primary School Homework: A feminist study of mothers' constructions of homework support. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Homework is a near-universal practice in UK primary schools (Medwell & Wray, 2019), principally studied from the perspective of what it may add to academic outcomes (H.Cooper et al., 2006; Jerrim et al., 2019; Ozyildirim, 2021). Limited research considers homework as a practice within the home, particularly viewed from the perspective of mothers, who are often the parent most closely involved in its support (Hutchison, 2012; Mandell & Sweet, 2004; Warton, 1998). This thesis uses theories of mothering to understand gendered homework labour from the individual standpoints of eight mothers.

Setting out to explore what shapes mothers' constructions of primary homework and their homework support role, I adopt social science portraiture to interpret data gathered using repeat interviews, video of mother-child homework interactions, and stimulated reflections. I apply a matricentric feminist lens (O'Reilly, 2016, 2019), understanding the participants' experiences as shaped by their social positioning as mothers, combined with a Gestalt-informed analysis approach which recognises individual psycho-socio-biographical experiences. The portraits within this thesis highlight maternal homework practices and perspectives, and are important as both diverse, individual narratives and indicative of mothering patterns and wider phenomena, including mothering scripts, the socio-biographical construction of mothers' support and the role of mother-child relationships in shaping homework behaviours. The role of emotions in maternal responses to homework, including devotion, protection, loss, anxiety and guilt, is revealed discursively and through visual data.

The findings locate mothering within homework practices, as well as homework practices within mothering, leading to the development of a new concept in homework research: motherisation. This concept highlights the maternal role in homework, the socio-biographical and psycho-social influences on maternal constructions of homework, mothering's embodiment within homework support, and mothers' agency in the development of homework practices. Fundamental to motherisation are mothers' emotional investments and emotion drivers. The act of agential motherisation makes homework, and homework support, characteristically different to schoolwork.

This thesis argues that homework support is a complex social and relational practice, shaped by mothers and mothering, and enacted as emotion care work. This new interpretation of homework, as a relational dimension of mothering, challenges its dominant framing in policy, practice and research as 'simply' an educational tool, suggesting it can also be understood as a relationally situated and embodied, lived experience for mother homework supporters, over which they have some agency.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Medwell, Jane
Thomson, Pat
Keywords: primary school homework; mothers; mothering; feminism; portraiture; psycho-social; free association narrative analysis; parental involvement; parental engagement
Subjects: H Social sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1024 Teaching
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary education
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 72254
Depositing User: Lehner-Mear, Rachel
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2023 04:40
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2023 04:40

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